Sunday, February 24, 2013

From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Thursday February 21, 2013  

Exclusive - Steven Brill Extended Interview Pt. 1

In this exclusive, unedited interview, Steven Brill explains the large discrepancy between what hospitals charge and what medical services actually cost.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

From the 1941 Musical “Sun Valley Serenade”

The Glenn Miller Orchestra Performs "Chattanooga Choo Choo"

The “Chattanooga Choo Choo” is one of the first songs I remember hearing as a child. The following is a clip from the 1941 musical “Sun Valley Serenade” starring John Payne, Sonja Henie, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, and Lynn Bari:

The scene includes two choruses of the song – sung first by Tex Beneke and The Modernaires followed by a song and dance rendition featuring Dorothy Dandridge and The Nicholas Brothers. Notice that the transition seems a bit awkward. The studio (20th Century Fox Pictures) at the time often made it easy for Southern movie exhibitors to delete sequences featuring black performers in mainstream movies.

Dorothy Dandridge would eventually become a leading lady. In 1954 she became the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in "Carmen Jones". In 1959 she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for "Porgy and Bess".

The Nicholas Brothers (Fayard and Harold) had a long and distinguish career. They began as stars on the jazz circuit during the glory days of the Harlem Renaissance. Later they performed on stage, in film and on television well into the 1990s. Both of them were married three times. Harold was first married to Dorothy Dandridge from 1942 to 1951. His last marriage was to Rigmor Alfredsson Newman, a producer and former Miss Sweden. Harold died in 2000 and Fayard in 2006.

The song (Chattanooga Choo Choo) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original song in 1942. Glenn Miller’s recording of the song became the number one song in the United States on the same day that Japan attack the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 and remained at the top of the Billboard Best Sellers chart for nine weeks. The 78-rpm was recorded on RCA Victor's Bluebird label and became the first certified gold record, selling over 1,200,000 copies.

In September 1942 at the age of 38 (too old to be drafted) Glenn Miller joined the Army Air Force. By 1944 he had attained the rank of Major and had form a 50-piece Army Air Force Band. That summer he took the band to England where he performed over 800 times for the troops. The Miller-led Army Air Force Orchestra also recorded a series of records with Dinah Shore at the Abbey Road Studios for EMI – the British and European distributor for RCA Victor at that time.

On December 15, 1944, while flying from the United Kingdom to Paris, France, to play for the Allied soldiers there, his single-engined plane, a UC-64 Norseman, disappeared over the English Channel. No trace of the plane or passengers was ever found.

In 1954 James Stewart played Glenn Miller in "The Glenn Miller Story". It was a massive box-office hit. It was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning an Oscar for Best Sound Recording. The soundtrack was also extremely successful, reaching number one on the Billboard album charts in 1954.

Eleven days ago, on the 5th of February,  2013, the last remaining member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Paul Tanner, died. He was 95 years old.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Deer at the Narrows (Photos)

From The New York Times (Paul Krugman)

The Ignorance Caucus

Last week Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, gave what his office told us would be a major policy speech. And we should be grateful for the heads-up about the speech’s majorness. Otherwise, a read of the speech might have suggested that he was offering nothing more than a meager, warmed-over selection of stale ideas.

To be sure, Mr. Cantor tried to sound interested in serious policy discussion. But he didn’t succeed — and that was no accident. For these days his party dislikes the whole idea of applying critical thinking and evidence to policy questions. And no, that’s not a caricature: Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach “critical thinking skills,” because, it said, such efforts “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

And such is the influence of what we might call the ignorance caucus that even when giving a speech intended to demonstrate his openness to new ideas, Mr. Cantor felt obliged to give that caucus a shout-out, calling for a complete end to federal funding of social science research. Because it’s surely a waste of money seeking to understand the society we’re trying to change.

Want other examples of the ignorance caucus at work? Start with health care, an area in which Mr. Cantor tried not to sound anti-intellectual; he lavished praise on medical research just before attacking federal support for social science. (By the way, how much money are we talking about? Well, the entire National Science Foundation budget for social and economic sciences amounts to a whopping 0.01 percent of the budget deficit.)

But Mr. Cantor’s support for medical research is curiously limited. He’s all for developing new treatments, but he and his colleagues have adamantly opposed “comparative effectiveness research,” which seeks to determine how well such treatments work.

What they fear, of course, is that the people running Medicare and other government programs might use the results of such research to determine what they’re willing to pay for. Instead, they want to turn Medicare into a voucher system and let individuals make decisions about treatment. But even if you think that’s a good idea (it isn’t), how are individuals supposed to make good medical choices if we ensure that they have no idea what health benefits, if any, to expect from their choices?

Still, the desire to perpetuate ignorance on matters medical is nothing compared with the desire to kill climate research, where Mr. Cantor’s colleagues — particularly, as it happens, in his home state of Virginia — have engaged in furious witch hunts against scientists who find evidence they don’t like. True, the state has finally agreed to study the growing risk of coastal flooding; Norfolk is among the American cities most vulnerable to climate change. But Republicans in the State Legislature have specifically prohibited the use of the words “sea-level rise.”

And there are many other examples, like the way House Republicans tried to suppress a Congressional Research Service report casting doubt on claims about the magical growth effects of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Do actions like this have important effects? Well, consider the agonized discussions of gun policy that followed the Newtown massacre. It would be helpful to these discussions if we had a good grasp of the facts about firearms and violence. But we don’t, because back in the 1990s conservative politicians, acting on behalf of the National Rifle Association, bullied federal agencies into ceasing just about all research into the issue. Willful ignorance matters.

O.K., at this point the conventions of punditry call for saying something to demonstrate my evenhandedness, something along the lines of “Democrats do it too.” But while Democrats, being human, often read evidence selectively and choose to believe things that make them comfortable, there really isn’t anything equivalent to Republicans’ active hostility to collecting evidence in the first place.

The truth is that America’s partisan divide runs much deeper than even pessimists are usually willing to admit; the parties aren’t just divided on values and policy views, they’re divided over epistemology. One side believes, at least in principle, in letting its policy views be shaped by facts; the other believes in suppressing the facts if they contradict its fixed beliefs.

In her parting shot on leaving the State Department, Hillary Clinton said of her Republican critics, “They just will not live in an evidence-based world.” She was referring specifically to the Benghazi controversy, but her point applies much more generally. And for all the talk of reforming and reinventing the G.O.P., the ignorance caucus retains a firm grip on the party’s heart and mind.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

From Moyers & Company

Nick Turse Describes the Real Vietnam War

February 8, 2013

Journalist Nick Turse describes his personal mission to compile a complete and compelling account of the Vietnam War’s horror as experienced by all sides, including innocent civilians who were sucked into its violent vortex.

Turse, who devoted 12 years to tracking down the true story of Vietnam, unlocked secret troves of documents, interviewed officials and veterans — including many accused of war atrocities — and traveled throughout the Vietnamese countryside talking with eyewitnesses to create his book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.

“American culture has never fully come to grips with Vietnam,” Turse tells Bill, referring to “hidden and forbidden histories that just haven’t been fully engaged.”

Monday, February 4, 2013

100th Anniversary of Rosa Parks' Birth

Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913. She is best known for being an African-American civil rights activist, whom the United States Congress called "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement".

On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, she refused to obey the bus driver (James Blake) when he ordered her to give up her seat in the “colored section” to a white passenger, after the white section was filled.

Ms Parks was not the first person to defy bus segregation. There were many others who came before her, including Irene Morgan in 1944, when she refused to give up her seat on an interstate Greyhound bus to a white person.

The 27-year-old Baltimore-born African-American woman was arrested and jailed in Middlesex County, Virginia, but not before she tore up the arrest warrant and kicked the sheriff in the groin. Ms Morgan appealed her conviction on constitutional grounds all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

Her case (Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia) was argued by William H. Hastie, the former governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands and later a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. His co-counsel was Thurgood Marshall, later an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The 6-1 landmark ruling in 1946, found that the state of Virginia's law enforcing segregation on interstate buses was illegal.

As for Ms Parks, though at first she suffered greatly for her defiance, in her later years she received numerous honors and international recognition, including the NAACP's 1979 Spingarn Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and a posthumous statue in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.

Upon her death on October 24, 2005, she was the first woman and second non-U.S. government official to lie in honor at the United States Capitol Rotunda.

Today, the U.S. Postal Service issued the following stamp in her honor: